How to Improve Time Management and Create a More Productive Day

time managementTime management or get rich quick tip? Write a best-selling book on how to manage a 4-hour work week, get rich, and have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. It does seem as though Tim Ferriss, the author of the best seller on time management The 4-Hour Work Week, has a lot of free time to tweet. Tim Ferriss’ 486,000 Twitter and one million blog followers are a testament to how important time management is in our lives.

The problem with Tim’s time management tips is that one becomes stressed out just reading them. His attempt to learn 10 languages, become a world tango champion, and gain or lose 30 pounds in super human spans of time are stressful to read about, even for an A personality.  Read between the lines, and his blogs are full of words like ‘superhuman,’ ‘workaholics,’ and ‘16-hour workdays.’ Then, there are the assistants experiencing major burnouts and people popping stay awake drugs. A mindful approach to time management brings peace not stress to daily life.

Avoid time management on steroids. Time management skills should help you find work-life balance

Time Management for Work-Life Balance

Manage Your Internet Time Wisely – Balancing the role of the Internet in our lives is one of the biggest time management challenges for most people today. Tim Ferris became famous by telling us how to manage our email – check it twice daily. Doctors have called too much web time a “global social issue.” Checking in at social media sites for Facebook friend updates and the news is a big time user. Use apps to aggregate all social media in one place and set specific times of the day to peak in. We could all use a course in social media for the time and technology challenged.

Delegate it – Part of the process of learning to focus on what is important is learning how to delegate. Delegation is a powerful productivity tool. By focusing on specialization, tasks can be assigned to those with the most talent in the assigned areas. The power of focus should not be overlooked as a productivity booster.

If it is not happening, move on – Or analyze why it is not happening. Which items have appeared on your to-do list week after week and never get done?  Make a separate list of those items. Now take them off of your to do list. One by one, confront those ignored to dos. Ask yourself why they never get done. Too busy? Neglect? Only put them back on the list when you have developed a plan for accomplishing them within a reasonable deadline.

Set boundaries on those who interrupt your day – Do family members and friends call too many times during the day? Does a neighbor drop by too often to say hello? Count how many minutes you spend socializing in a day. Turn off the instant messenger, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Stop procrastinating – Intrusions in our daily lives are often self-sabotage. The neighbors who stay too long for coffee, the husband who calls five times a day, the personal emails you acknowledge as soon as they pop into your inbox. Often we let these intrusions into our lives as a form of procrastination. How can you limit these intrusions? Fear is often the reason behind procrastination. Ask yourself why you are avoiding certain tasks.

Figure out ‘how time flies’ – How many days do you end with this expression? Make a list of everything in your day that was non-core to your work, family, leisure and other areas important to you. For great time management tools, check out The 4-Hour Workweek Tools.

Analyze time in terms of opportunity cost – When we choose A, economists consider the opportunity cost of foregoing B. If you are half way through a really bad movie, would you leave the movie theatre? What is the opportunity cost of watching the second half of the movie versus say returning home and enjoying your favorite online cooking class with your spouse, or joining neighbors for the last half of the local soccer game.

Time Management Truisms That Do Not Work

Do not prioritize by order of importance – We have just struck if off the above list. Why not? Author of Personal Productivity Secrets Maura Thomas points out the madness in this method. Good, you have made a list of 40 things to do today. Now, place a time beside each to-do item. Yep, it will take you 25 hours to accomplish those tasks. Attach a deadline to each time, advises Thomas. Realistically, those deadlines may range from 3 hours to 20 days from now.  Whew! Do you feel as if a big space just opened up in your day?

Do not establish one big deadlineStudies on goal setting show that individuals are more likely to achieve goals if they set multiple milestones, and if each milestone is meaningful. The fact that you will lose points on grades or in a performance review is meaningful, but choosing something that is personally meaningful to you will be even more effective. Plan to wrap up your white paper on sales team performance after the annual sales performance conference. Finish the draft in time to refine and polish your ideas with the help of conference participants.

Do not multitask – Research has shown multitasking to be counterproductive when applied to most tasks. Chatting on the phone while answering email will actually take more time than if you separate the tasks. And your performance on both tasks may be subpar. We over-estimate our ability to be ambidextrous. Think back to the original application of multiskilling. The object was to train workplace employees on several tasks.  but they were never expected to do both jobs at the same time.

Once you learn how to master your time, your life will be more fulfilling. A lot of the stress in a day relates to time management. Proper time management techniques can reduce daily stress. Consider enrolling in a course that is more efficient than even Tim Ferris such as Effective Time Management – Get 10x More Done in Less Time.